Panama was a joyous surprise. It's a country with a long and varied history, that has wonders of the natural world as well as one of the world’s foremost wonders of engineering. While here we toured the countryside of Western Panama, the beaches of central Panama, and the cityscape of Panama City, all with new friends from all over the world. What more could an Overlander want?!? Oh beer… so check out our new category below to see which was our favorite local brew.
Arrived in Panama: November 6th
Left Panama: November 16th
Miles driven: 466
Number of submarines seen going through the Panama Canal: 1
Number of Toucans seen: Like 6 just hanging out in the tree next to our friends’ Airbnb!!
Number of Overlanders it takes to light a BBQ: 4 men to try and light it, 4 women to watch and offer commentary
Amount of time spent in Panama City traffic: Too F***ing much!
1. Favorite town: Volcan. A smallish farming community where we stayed with our new friend Will and his wife JJ, I loved the scenery, coffee fincas, and cool weather.
2. Favorite meal: We were invited to a BBQ by South by Syncro in Panama City. Four overlanding couples shared beers, wine, and grilled meat while steeling themselves for the shipping process.
3. Most unexpected thing: Kinda the whole country. We really didn’t know what to expect, but what we got wasn’t it.
4. Favorite encounter: Being invited to a small town church service in Gamboa after camping all night in the parking lot across the street.
5. Favorite local drink: Balboa beer!
6. Favorite drive: Bombing through the jungles of the Canal Zone looking for a campsite. The pouring rain, fenced in restricted areas, and signs pointing to “the dock” made for a very “Jurassic Park” experience.
7. Best free experience: Definitely spending a night alongside the Panama Canal and then drinking my coffee in the early morning sun as container ships slowly passed by.
8. Most frustrating thing: Panama City traffic. Also, getting lost trying to meet up with our shipping agent. As the lead car in a convoy of two, it was pretty embarrassing to lead our new friends The Long Cruise through multiple roundabouts with their trailer in tow.
9. Favorite experience: Being given the local’s tour by Will in the mountains surrounding Volcan. Delivering eggs to schools, exploring waterfalls and coffee farms, it all made for a pretty amazing day we’d have been hard pressed to come up with ourselves.
10. Best thing about the country: The roads. They were in remarkably good shape. Probably some of the best we’ve come across.
Favorite picture: Pulling our truck into that big steel Evergreen container put a momentous cap on our trip through North America!
1. Favorite town: Gamboa! We spent a peaceful night in this small town along the Panama Canal. It reminded us of the small towns we grew up in, so much so that we even went to church after a kind invite from the pastor.
2. Favorite meal: We had some great meals in Panama, but I think my favorite was when we got invited to lunch after church with the sweetest young family. We shared leftovers from their one-year-olds birthday party and had some of the best Mexican food you could find outside of Oaxaca (where they had lived for 5 years). We even had Tres Leche cake and Tamales with Mole! Amazing!
3. Most unexpected thing: Panama City was a surprise, it’s such a big vibrant city. It’s not somewhere I would probably spend a lot of time, but the time we did have there we enjoyed it. And that skyline…!
4. Favorite encounter: We made friends all over Panama, but probably my favorite was meeting Megan and Nick of @thelongcruise. They were getting the paperwork done as well to ship their 100 series Landcruiser and Turtleback trailer the same day as us. We ended up sharing lunch that day, then drinks, then dinner, as we celebrated completing the inspection process, and they even invited us to a big “Friendsgiving” they were planning in Cartagena!
5. Favorite Local drink: Balboa Beer
6. Favorite drive: Our first night in Panama we camped in the yard of our friend Will and his wife JJ. The next morning, he invited us to go with him to some local villages to deliver eggs, then we visited a coffee farm, saw Noriega’s old airport, had lunch at his favorite restaurant, and visited a local waterfall. It was an awesome drive around the area!
7. Best free experience: Our camp spot in Gamboa that was right next to the Panama Canal. KP was like a little kid every time one of the giant ships floated by. He would point and take pictures and we’d speculate about what they were carrying and where they were going. Lots of fun!
8. Most frustrating thing: Traffic in Panama City! We visited old town which was about 20km from our hotel. Our Uber ride in mid-morning traffic was about 40 minutes. Our ride back at 6pm was an hour and a half! And that was with our driver zipping down side streets and using the shoulder as a lane. Everyone we asked said it was terrible and that it was only getting worse. Yikes!
9. Favorite experience: Hands down watching a submarine go through the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal! So freaking cool!
10. Best thing about the country: Panama was a surprise to us, mostly because we didn’t know what to expect. I would say the best thing about it was how much more of a modern country it is. There is more money and industry there than any of the previous countries we’d visited in Central America, but it was nice to see that despite it being more modern, they still seemed to honor local traditions and their own rich history. We were there in November when they celebrate multiple holidays and dias de independencia (Panama was occupied a lot in its history). It’s cool to see how important these days were to the people.
Favorite Picture: I was dirty, sweaty, smelly, hadn't showered or changed clothes in MANY days, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to frame this picture one day! What an incredible milestone to get to this part of our journey!